Written by: Owen McCafferty
Starring: Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson, David Wilmot, Amit Shah
As we age, the potential of landing serious diseases increases as the body begins to slowly deteriorate. It can happen instantaneously without as much as a warning. One day life may be as normal as it ever has been and the switch can occur. By balancing the mundanity of life along with news of an impactful diagnosis, Ordinary Love finds a way to keep a consistent level of warmth in its somber story.
Going through their days going on walks and small variations to their normal schedule, Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) live a nice retired life. One day Joan feels a bump on her breast, which later gets diagnosed with cancer and makes them confront the possibility of death and the painful road ahead for discovery.
Watching any film with cancer playing a large part of the story can be impactful for anyone who has a history of it themselves or with loved ones. The introduction of cancer into this story happens quickly but the film allows for a few touching moments for this couple to ingratiate themselves into the narrative first. It starts with them walking and then sitting on the couch where they have conversations about how their Fitbit can actually track the steps they take. The mundanity of the conversation touched my heart because it’s the same kind of question I would randomly ask. This scene establishes these two have a strong rapport together and are trying to get fit, as couples tend to do in fluctuations. The discovery of potential cancer occurs when Joan showers and feels a lump on her breast. Calmness and routine have dictated their lives for many years now, which this discovery rips away.
Battling cancer becomes a focal point of the story, but it does not define it, as it firmly belongs to this couple and how this becomes an obstacle for them. As the story continues, more gets divulged about their life situation and how they have reached this stage together. Cancer becomes a large impediment, but the love they have for each other needs to be strong enough to hold them together. Being in another’s presence becomes integral to them surviving this issue and the moments where they sit alone is where their true emotions show. Joan obviously has to deal with the physical element of it, but several moments in the film show Tom holding it together for his wife when speaking to her and then sitting alone in bed in order to sob. Pain surges through them, even with this being a mild diagnosis as compared to the other characters met in the film.
The way Ordinary Love gets filmed has a simple approach with no flash, as it does not need it to tell this touching story of Tom and Joan. The camera follows them as a passive observer of what occurs and details the impact of this battle. From room to room the moments when they are together and apart have stark differences in the conversations but not the mood as a melancholic and somber color palette gets utilized throughout the entire feature. This time in their lives does not come with any excitement, it’s just a dreadful wait to drive to the hospital, hear more news about test results, and carry on with the impact this will have in their lives.
With the story and filmmaking not adding much in sparks, the hard work rested on Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson and they certainly delivered. Manville certainly gets the meatier role, as she portrays the woman battling cancer. She wonderfully works through the moments of tenderness necessary while rightfully displaying who has to endure the real pain through this entire ordeal. Manville carries the heart of the story while Neeson must try to inject moments of levity, as his character tries to find a way to be supportive and cope with the reality of his wife’s life being threatened.
Even in the heartbreaking moments in Ordinary Love, a beautiful tenderness remains between these two as they have battled many things in their life, and cancer is yet another they will overcome. Fights ensue as insecurities grow but life gives these moments of challenge and the support systems we have around us dictate how well it can be managed. While this film does not bring anything groundbreaking or fascinating, it shows a real look at how a life-threatening disease impacts a particular couple. It did not need to be anything more than what was presented and it worked just fine.